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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ray Bradbury: A Man of Passion

Ray Bradbury in 1959
Ray Bradbury passed away yesterday. He lived a long and fruitful, seemingly happy life. He spent most of his life doing what he loved: Writing and creating.
I am not much for the Rest in Peace posts. It's not my thing. I would rather focus on what he did and some of the advice he had for writers. So I will do that.

Bradbury suffered a stroke in 1999 that left him partially dependent on a wheelchair for mobility. Despite this Bradbury continued to write, and had even written an essay on his inspiration for writing for the New Yorker published only a week prior to his death.

"I don't think life is worth living unless you are doing something you love completely."

-Ray Bradbury

 Born August 22, 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois, Ray Bradbury died June 5, 2012 at the age of 91.
Bradbury was a reader and writer throughout his youth who was greatly influenced by the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. Bradbury was especially impressed with Poe's ability to draw readers into his works. In his youth, he spent much time in the Carnegie library in Waukegan, Illinois, reading such authors as H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and his favorite author, Edgar Rice Burroughs.

 Bradbury's first love was magic. If he had not become a writer, he likely would have become a magician. He tells of an encounter with a carnival magician named Mr. Electrico,  after which he was determined to become a writer for the rest of his life.

 Bradbury has a dislike for college and did not attend. He described it as stifling to the creativity of a writer. He preferred libraries.

"Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years."

-Ray Bradbury 

 It was in UCLA's Powell Library, in a study room with typewriters for rent, that Bradbury wrote his classic story of a book-burning future, The Fireman, which contained about 25,000 words. It was later published at about 50,000 words under the name, Fahrenheit 451, for a total cost of $9.80, due to the library's typewriter rental fees of ten cents per half-hour.

 Having been inspired by science fiction heroes like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, Bradbury began to publish science fiction stories in fanzines in 1938.

He became a full-time writer by the end of 1942. His first collection of short stories, Dark Carnival, was published in 1947. Many of the stories in that collection were featured in Ray Bradbury Theater on Television, including The Coffin episode posted above and The Crowd posted below.

 A chance encounter in a Los Angeles bookstore with the British expatriate writer Christopher Isherwood gave Bradbury the opportunity to put The Martian Chronicles into the hands of a respected critic. Isherwood's glowing review followed.

He is generally labeled a science fiction writer. Bradbury resisted that categorization, however:

 "First of all, I don't write science fiction. I've only done one science fiction book and that's Fahrenheit 451, based on reality. It was named so to represent the temperature at which paper ignites. Science fiction is a depiction of the real. Fantasy is a depiction of the unreal. So Martian Chronicles is not science fiction, it's fantasy. It couldn't happen, you see? That's the reason it's going to be around a long time — because it's a Greek myth, and myths have staying power."

 Below I have listed some more of his more famous works.

"It Came From Outer Space"

 It Came From Outer Space was a 1953 movie adapted from Bradbury's Atomic Monster.

"I Sing the Body Electric "

 Bradbury's short story I Sing the Body Electric  was adapted for the 100th episode of The Twilight Zone. The episode was first aired on May 18, 1962.

"Dandelion Wine"

Dandelion Wine is a 1957 novel taking place in the summer of 1928 in the fictional town of Green Town, Illinois — a pseudonym for Bradbury's childhood home of Waukegan, Illinois. The novel developed from the short story "Dandelion Wine" which appeared in the June 1953 issue of Gourmet magazine.
The title refers to a wine made with dandelion petals and other ingredients, commonly citrus fruit. In the story, dandelion wine, as made by the protagonist's grandfather, serves as a metaphor for packing all of the joys of summer into a single bottle.

"The Illustrated Man"

The Illustrated Man is a 1951 book of eighteen science fiction short stories by Ray Bradbury that explores the nature of mankind. While none of the stories has a plot or character connection with the next, a recurring theme is the conflict of the cold mechanics of technology and the psychology of people.

 The book was made into a 1969 film starring Rod Steiger and Claire Bloom. It was adapted by Howard B. Kreitsek  from the stories "The Veldt", "The Long Rain", and "The Last Night of the World", and directed by Jack Smight.

"Something Wicked This Way Comes"

 The 1983 horror film Something Wicked This Way Comes, starring Jason Robards and Jonathan Pryce, is based on the Bradbury novel of the same name.

 In two significant interviews among the many Bradbury gave over the years, I have come up with many quotes that explain Bradbury's life and writing philosophy. They are listed below.

I've always claimed that the ability to fantasize is the ability to survive. The ability to fantasize is the ability to grow.

I've always tended to be a visual person and myths are very visual. And I began to draw and I felt the urge to carry on these myths. If I'm anything at all I'm not really a science fiction writer, I'm a writer of fairy tales and modern myths about technology and my stories are easy to remember because I was influenced at an early age by the real tellers of tales of all history. You start out through time, 2000 years ago, and learn all the myths then you become a good storyteller. It's in your blood by the time you start to write. I'm glad for that background.

I discovered early on if you wanted it you went after it and you got it. Most don't ever go anywhere or want anything, so they never get it.

You must never think at the typewriter. You must feel.

The worst thing you do when you think is you lie. ...what you try to do as a creative person is find out who you really are...and not to lie. Try to tell  the truth all the time.

Thinking is to be a corrective in our lives. It is not to be the center of our lives. Living is supposed to be the center of our lives.

I love Dylan Thomas. I don't know what the hell he is writing about half the time, but he sounds good.

If there is no feeling there cannot be great art.

A typewriter should be a
Ouija board.  Your hands move on it and reveal things about yourself you didn't know.

you must galvanize people so they want to be completely alive and live forever.

Absolutely none (conflict between science and religion). The processes they are going through are  the two halves of a coin. Because everything ends in mystery. Scientists have theories and
theologians have myths. And they're both the same thing. And they end up in ignorance.

The basic problems of science fiction are philosophical ones.

In order to be excellent first you have to be mediocre.

A writers past is the most important thing he has. Sometimes an object, a mask, a ticket stub, anything at all helps me remember a whole experience. And out of that may come an idea for a story.

I don't turn my back on anything. My art has grown out of many things. The good, the bad and the indifferent.

The problem of good and evil fascinates me as a writer.

A writer moves about, observing, seeing as much as he can, trying to guess how man will play the game. Constantly measuring the way life is against the way he feels it ought to be. He's a magnet passing through a factual world taking from it what he needs.

The time we have alone. The time we have for walking for riding a bicycle is the most important time for a writer.
Escaping from the typewriter is part of the creative process. You have to give the subconscious time to think.
Real thinking always occurs on the sub conscious level. I never consciously set out to write a certain story. The idea must originate somewhere deep within me.

A story sells itself, always, but not when it's sitting in the files. A writer needs an agent to go out into the marketplace and sell his wares.

Any society where natural man, a pedestrian,  becomes the intruder and un-natural man,  encased in a solid steel shell becomes his molester, is a science fiction nightmare.

A story should be like a river..flowing and never stopping. Your readers passengers on a boat whirling downstream to constantly refreshing and changing scenery. My readers must become the main character.

There's no real way of thanking my own teachers except through teaching others. We all need one person to look us in the face and say "you can do what you want to do. I tell young writers you can never be James Joyce,  you can never be Mickey Spillane you can only be yourself." I tell them it doesn't have to be the greatest but it does have to be you.

After a good day of writing I feel like I have been for a long walk in another world.

I'm a storyteller. That's all I've ever tried to be. I guess in ancient time I would have been somewhere in the marketplace alongside the magicians, delighting the people. I'd rather delight and entertain than anything else.

I worry about rejection. But not too much. The real fear isn't rejection. But that there won't be enough time in your life to write all the stories you have in you. Every time I put a new one in the mail, I know I have beaten death again.
As of yesterday, Ray Bradbury could beat death no more. But he lived long enough to leave a legacy that endures after he is now no longer with us.

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